Mark McMorris Infinite Air (or Infinite Air with Mark McMorris, depending on where you look) marks a return to the snowboarding genre, and is out now for PS4, PC and Xbox One. We looked at both the Xbox One and PC version for our review.
A few years ago, extreme sports titles were a dime a dozen. We had skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX – you name it. In recent years, the closest we’ve gotten to quality titles in the genre are the OlliOlli and Trials games – both taking a 2D approach to a genre that was dominated by 3D in the PS2/PS3 era. Mark McMorris Infinite Air (as well as Ubisoft’s upcoming Steep) is aiming to thrust extreme sports back into the third dimension and combines familiar gameplay with several new elements.
Controlling the action in Mark McMorris Infinite Air is easy to pick up, yet hard to master. If you’ve played games like Skate before, then you’ll quickly feel at home here, using two thumbsticks to control your snowboarder and perform tricks. In theory it’s possible to use alternative control methods as well (though keyboard isn’t an option), but I wouldn’t recommend using anything but a gamepad with two thumbsticks – a d-pad/thumbstick combination didn’t work out for me. This doesn’t really become an issue until you start attempting to land tougher combinations of tricks. Nailing that perfect takeoff, making sure you’re balanced and giving yourself just enough rotation to land back on your feet is – even frustratingly so at times – quite the challenge. There are tutorials, but this is one of those games where it’s practice that makes perfect – and perhaps more practice than some might be willing to put into it.
There is a circuit mode, which throws more and more difficult courses at you. Every now and then, you also get to race other snowboarders, but for the most part this is a solo affair only. This is especially true when you explore the game’s ‘open world’, which is randomly generated. As is often the case with randomly generated game worlds, they’re not as tightly designed and expertly crafted as you’d like, and the end result is that open world snowboarding can get a little boring. There aren’t enough areas to perform the tricks you’d like, and stringing them together is even harder.
This is where Mark McMorris Infinite Air’s potentially biggest asset comes into play: user-generated content. The game’s world editor allows you to craft your own mountains, almost from scratch. I say almost, because the game generates a basic outline for you to start with – and that’s a good thing, because this way you’re not spending ages sorting out all kinds of trivial details. Instead, you can focus on laying down your obstacles, ramps and other props – which is what it’s all about. In theory, this should give Infinite Air an enormous amount of replayability, but part of that depends on how big the community is going to be that gets behind it.
At the time of writing, the amount of (good) content is relatively limited – but we’re only in the first week after the game’s release. There is one track available created by the game’s developers (HB Studios), which is a quality track and we hope to see more from them in the future. Until that time – or until the moment the community gains momentum – Mark McMorris Infinite Air offers fun in the shape of Slopestyle, Big Air and Halfpipe events – which mixed with the circuit mode offers a limited amount of single player content. For the game to succeed in its ambition to thrive as a social experience the game will have to grow as part of a community.
Audiovisually, this is an excellent game from a relatively small developer. HB Studios showed their potential with their first game (The Golf Club) and this has carried over to Infinite Air. While the procedurally generated world can look a bit empty and bland, a finely crafted course is a sight to behold – as are the backdrops. Both the PC and Xbox One versions have no trouble keeping the graphics running at a smooth pace as well, which is essential for a game that is so dependent on skill and accuracy when trying to pull off those death-defying moves.
It will be interesting to see how Mark McMorris Infinite Air will fare in the coming three months, with a game like Steep on the horizon and the free to play alternative Snow coming out of early access soon as well. As of right now, Infinite Air doesn’t have enough content to warrant its 50 dollar price tag even though the fundamentals are solid. It’s a game that’s hard to master and thus rewarding in the long run, but only if enough content is created to make it interesting for that long. I’d wait and see what happens first.